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City sends restraint signal to Edmonton unions in contract talks

Dozens of Edmontonians raise concerns at city hall during budget talks
Dec. 5: Some dire warnings mixed in with community concerns at city hall Thursday, as citizens were invited to weigh in on Edmonton's 2020 budget. Because of provincial cuts, city finances are facing shortfalls. Vinesh Pratap has more.

Taking a page from the province, City of Edmonton negotiators have rescinded the third year of a three-year proposal to its unions. It would have seen employees get a raise in year three, after a wage freeze in the first two years of the contract.

Lanny Chudyk, with CSU 52, representing inside workers for the city, told Global News he had heard that latest twist in negotiations.

“We’ve been told the same by the city’s negotiator, that we’re dealing with, but I have not seen or heard that officially from council.”

“The last mandate council established, as I understood it was: zero, zero, one-point-five (per cent). It’s my understanding that, to date, council has not officially rescinded that mandate.”

Chudyk said the fact that word is making the rounds is rare in itself.

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“Generally during negotiations the union side is not aware of exactly what the mandate is. In this round, the city manager decided to break tradition and allow the unions to know what council’s imposed mandate was.”

READ MORE: Edmonton unions wondering about provincial chill in negotiations

One of the bargaining units for the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569, which represents DATS drivers, accepted the 1.5 per cent increase for 2021. So too did the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local 1007.

Unions and Edmonton business leaders meet to find common ground
Unions and Edmonton business leaders meet to find common ground

The main bargaining unit for ATU still has not reached an agreement with the city, Mark Tetterington said in early November. Outside workers with CUPE 30 are soon due to vote on the offer of two years of zero per cent, said president John Mervyn.

READ MORE: City reaches contract agreement with Edmonton police and fire unions

Chudyk said the city saw clear signals from the province about fiscal restraint.

“After discussions this summer, council agreed to change their mandate to zero, zero, and 1.5 (per cent) in 2021. As it stands today — and I’ve asked the question and I have not gotten a ‘no’ — that the mandate has been reverted back to zero and zero (per cent).”

“Councillors are politicians. They have a constituency they need to report to and that is the voter, the property taxpayer. I fully understand the dilemma they have, particularly considering the way the provincial government is moving with provincial employees,” Chudyk said.

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“It’s very difficult to defend pay increases in this atmosphere.”

City council will resume 2020 budget deliberations on Wednesday.